By Joan Akello
Prof. Edward Kakonge, National chairman of Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) talked to Joan Akello about politics and humanity.
Any three things we don’t know about you?
I believe in Jesus but not in religion or that there is heaven. So I want to maximize my life here; do the good I can and avoid doing evil and thereafter my creator will take care of the rest; half of my time everyday is thinking and reading and; my father who was a passionate teacher educated and looked after many people. He did not want us to use our belonging to the royal clan to demand respect. You should earn respect on the basis of how you treat others.
What makes Budonians special?
My father was a Budonian and my mother from Gayaza High School, I went to King’s College Budo and some of my children have gone there. When I was there (1951-1956), our teachers cared about us and groomed us to learn to think. Today, there is a fundamental problem with our education system; it focuses on mass production and not quality. Education is an instrument to empower a person to think, not to get jobs. If you are mentally sharp, you won’t hunt for jobs, jobs will hunt for you.
Which jobs hunted for you?
I was offered a job at Makerere University when I was a still a student and in 1986 President Museveni asked me to help him to become the Minister for Local Government yet I had never interacted face to face with him.
Is that why you abandoned chalk for politics?
Though I did not participate in Obote politics, UPC was in my heart because of my elder brother (John Kakonge) who at 30 was UPC secretary General.
What are your greatest achievements?
Thirteen years after leaving Budo, I had got three degrees including a PhD, I was a proud teacher because many people used to fear biochemistry but I made some love it by approaching it in relation to understanding one’s body. As minister of Local Government, I introduced the Local Council system. Unfortunately, it was tampered with and eventually swallowed by the government and that was the beginning of problems because it was the bedrock of security or defense of the village.
What would you tell the President if you met him?
Thank you for what you have done but you have massively failed because there are many Ugandans who have been left out while others have multiple passports. Museveni is the archangel of corruption. It is also a pity that we have a few seasoned politicians like Kintu Musoke and he, Museveni, is not one of those.
What is most misunderstood in society?
Democracy; North Korea, the U.S., France, UK have their own versions. You cannot be a Prime Minister in UK if you are Catholic. That’s a tragedy. My kind of democracy is one where a government is human-centered. Stupidly, some think money can empower people but the government’s biggest task is to empower people to think.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Relating to others in harmony. Then, in every situation, try to be in charge.
When and where were you happiest?
Reading the Beatitudes in the Gospel of Matthew.
What is your greatest fear?
This country is in a terrible mess and people think we are OK. To put this country on track, you need patience, clarity of the ideas at all levels of society.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Using somebody else as a toy or ladder to satisfy your greed for power.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Meeting specific needs of others because so many people invested in me and it is the way of paying back.
What is your current state of mind?
Calm even under stress. At 79, what kind of disaster can overcome me yet I lost two brothers who were in their thirties and I never buried them?
What is the quality you most like in a man?
Can intellectually discuss and exchange ideas.
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Empowered to think for herself, and has values she treasures. Beauty is transient.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My mother – she passed on, was my best friend. As a boy she told me, my son, giving birth to a child is a life and death action. Never make a girl pregnant unless you are prepared to take care of her and if you impregnate a girl and she dies in child birth, you must acknowledge your contribution in her death and that sunk in. She also devotionally wrote me letters every month when I was studying abroad.
Which talent would you most like to have?
The capacity to handle ideas.
What is your most treasured possession?
My wife Zillah and, my four children.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
One’s inability to exchange ideas, have people to talk to or read books.
Who are your favorite writers?
St. Paul; for being argumentative and in many ways incisive, especially in Ephesians and Philippians. In guiding one to make a considered choice; Albert Schweitzer for Civilization and Ethics.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Jesus Christ, The Bible says he was going around doing good.
Who are your heroes in real life?
Nelson Mandela, he suffered a lot but it curved out somebody more human though I was disappointed that he divorced his wife who had suffered for him. Most of the leaders have messed up their countries and people.
Obote is among those blamed for messing Uganda!
His weakness was that he had the incapacity to make decisions quickly. His first government was the first representative one where everybody felt part and parcel.
What’s UPC’s problem?
UPC has been out of power for 30 years and many people who know what UPC did and strategies it used do not want to tell them and have created an aura of negativity about UPC. At this stage, it will be obscene for Museveni to say that UPC rigged elections when he himself has never won a free and fair election; he is addicted to rigging.
What is your greatest regret?
That a nation that has gone through turmoil has failed to come together. It is a tragedy that many people have died because the state killed or has failed to protect lives and property.
How would you like to die?
I pray that I die quickly.
What is your motto?
My utmost for my creator.